Dele Alli heads Tottenham winner as World Cup stars cover for lack of signings
NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, England -- Three points from St James' Park as Tottenham Hotspur got their 2018-19 Premier League campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory against Newcastle United.
1. No signings, no problem (so far)
Tottenham have just become the first Premier League club not to make a summer signing since the transfer window was introduced in 2003, but they have nine World Cup semifinalists and their squad certainly looked competitive at St James' Park.
Five of those players were fit enough to start with Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane giving Spurs a formidable spine to Mauricio Pochettino's side.
It didn't take long for Spurs' star internationals to make an impact as Vertonghen and Alli both scored inside the opening 20 minutes, either side of a header from Joselu.
Lloris also made important interventions as the game wore on, while Mousa Dembele was introduced off the bench.
Tottenham's opponents had a rather busier offseason, bringing in seven players -- including a couple who were on loan at the club last season.
However, Rafa Benitez left four of his new faces on his bench and Magpies fans still met outside a Sports Direct store in the city centre before the match to voice their displeasure at the way owner Mike Ashley runs the club, and the lack of investment in the team.
Tottenham have plenty of room for improvement. Some of their defending was particularly rusty and they survived a number of scares, especially when they hit the bar late on -- this was hardly routine. Kane also struggled to make an impact as he continues to wait for his first ever Premier League goal in August.
However, at full-time Spurs' lack of new recruits seemed less of a problem that it may have seemed to some supporters on Thursday evening -- as a first outing, after difficult preparations, this was a decent start.
Similarly, Newcastle's business has been unable to save them from an opening-weekend defeat.
It may just be that signings aren't everything, but time will tell.
2. Serge Aurier fails to impress as Kieran Trippier rested
Pochettino will be looking for individual improvements within his existing squad, and he has a history of improving players.
If right-back Aurier can take forward steps this season then that will certainly help -- and after 20 minutes of Saturday's outing the signs were positive.
The Ivory Coast international, who set up a goal for Lucas Moura during preseason with an excellent cross, whipped a glorious delivery to the far post, where Alli headed home.
But that was the best moment of another erratic performance.
There were two of the rash sliding tackles which Aurier has developed a reputation for at Spurs -- one from behind on Jonjo Shelvey and another in the middle of Newcastle's half that left his entire flank open.
Aurier also failed to make the most of a couple of attacking situations. On one occasion, as he ran infield towards Moussa Sissoko, tried to flick the ball to his teammate and lost possession, he got hurried advice from Pochettino. Then he got a verbal volley from Eric Dier for missing a tackle and forcing his teammate to commit a foul.
There was also a mistimed header in his own box, which resulted in a low shot across goal and a shake of the head from Pochettino.
Despite Aurier's excellent assist for Alli, he has plenty of work to do, and on this evidence Pochettino will not be sweating over his right-back selection for too long when Trippier is fit to start.
Contrastingly, Sissoko -- who has struggled to win over the fans in his first two seasons -- had a useful outing on the right side of a three-man midfield unit.
That is probably the Frenchman's best position and he made strong tackles, blocked passes and used the ball simply but effectively. He should just have scored when Ben Davies' cross reached him in a central position a few yards out.
3. Can Tottenham build momentum before international break?
History has virtually repeated itself, given Spurs also started the last season with a win at Newcastle (a 2-0 victory on that occasion).
However, they went on to lose against Chelsea and draw with Burnley in their next two fixtures, ending up with four points from a possible nine.
That has been something of a theme in recent seasons. Tottenham's best tally in the past three campaigns is five points from those nine available.
Tottenham's first match in their brand new stadium is coming against Liverpool on Sept. 15, right after the first international break of the season.
The north Londoners routinely hit top gear around Christmas. If they can put a winning run together at the start this time and stay with the pacesetters for a while then it will boost Pochettino's insistence that his side can progress this season without new faces.